Monday, October 29, 2018

Acqua Alta - Exceptional High Water in Venice, October 2018

Flooding in Venice, Italy - Photo Cat Bauer - Venice Blog
Acqua alta on the Zattare in Venice - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) We are having our first acqua alta, or high water, of the fall season, and it is a doozy. I can't remember it being this high since back in 2008, ten years ago.

There is a siren that goes off to warn the citizens of Venice that acqua alta is expected, which starts with a shattering air raid wail, then segues into four ascending harmonic tones that sound something like Close Encounters of the Third Kind. With each ascending tone, anxiety rises. We usually have one or two tones. Three is bad. Four is almost unheard of. Today we had four. On top of that, it has been raining on and off all day with strong, gusty winds.

High water in Venice, Italy - Photo by Cat Bauer - Venice Blog
Fallen trees by Accademia - Photo: Cat Bauer
Officials say that the water level reached just about 160 centimeters today, which is "exceptional." They measure the high water level from point zero at Punta della Salute, which is where the mareograph, an instrument for recording the rise and fall of the tide, is located.  Most of Venice -- 97% of the town -- is at more than 100 centimeters, so normally when we have acqua alta, we put on our rubber boots and go about business as usual since there are only patches that flood -- in fact, many times we don't even put on our rubber boots if we know the area well enough to navigate.

Only certain areas are lower than 100 cm -- the lowest point in Venice is right in front of the main entrance of the Basilica of San Marco in Piazza San Marco, which is 64cm, and always floods. But when we have exceptional high water -- over 140cm -- that means 90% of the town is covered by water.

Flood Rates of Venice in Relation to High Water Levels

+100cm - 3.56%

+110cm - 11.74%

+120cm - 35.18%

+130cm - 68.75%

+140cm -  90%

The information I am using from the Province of Venice's Turismo Venezia does not list tides over +140cm, but we can imagine that at +160cm, nearly the entire town is covered by water. This does not mean that we are under water, but there is water in almost every calle in town. Here is a photo of the calle outside my door, which never gets high water, even at +140cm. I was only millimeters away from the water coming in my house! I wonder if in the future there will always be water in the calle, and that to live in Venice you will have to put on rubber boots just to get out the door.

Water in the calle - Photo: Cat Bauer
The water rose so high that they cancelled the vaporetti except out to the islands. Schools and museums had already announced they would be closed today and tomorrow. We were told to stay inside, but nobody seemed to listen, including me. I managed to navigate well enough up until about 2:30pm, but gave up when the water went over my boots at Rialto. There were guys right inside the vaporetto stop selling those noisy plastic colorful boots to tourists for ten bucks a pair.

Flooding in Venice, Italy - Photo by Cat Bauer - Venice Blog
Intrepid travelers at Bar da Gino during acqua alta in Venice - Photo: Cat Bauer
The tourists in town were in good spirits, and seemed to treat it like a great adventure. Of course, for businesses it is not an adventure at all, but a lot of stress, hard work and clean-up. Even Gino's by Accademia which is open all day from 6:00am to around midnight gave up and closed around 2:00pm, leaving some intrepid travelers munching on some pizza as the water lapped around their feet.

Here is a YouTube clip of the Zattare, which became part of the lagoon, and was not possible to navigate without thigh-high boots as early as 12:45pm.

Another four-alarm siren went off as I wrote this. The winds are gusting. Exceptional acqua alta is also on the agenda for tonight and tomorrow...

Go to the Province of Venice High Water Information Centre for more information.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Sunday, October 14, 2018

It's a First in Italy: Léon Bakst, Acclaimed Set & Costume Designer of the Ballets Russe, at Palazzo Cini in Venice

1909 Amoun costume for Michel Fokine in Cleopatra - design by Léon Bakst - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) The Ballets Russes has always intrigued me. Originally conceived by ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev, who is buried here in Venice on the island of San Michele, the itinerant company never performed in Russia, beginning its adventure in Paris in 1909.

The Ballet Russes grew out of the World of Art movement, founded in Russia by artists opposed to the prevailing culture -- a talented group that introduced "Russian Colour" in music, choreography and the figurative arts. In addition to Diaghilev, the founders of Ballet Russes included Léon Bakst, who had created a name for himself as an art editor and childrens' book illustrator before tackling set and costume design for ballet. Other prominent members included the renowned Vaslav Nijinksy, considered the greatest male dancer of the early 20th century, and Michel Fokine, the groundbreaking Russian choreographer and dancer.

In 1909 Bakst visited Venice with Diaghilev and Nijinksky. That same year he joined the Ballets Russes, which debuted with the ballet Cléopatre performed by Anna Pavlova, Tamara Karsavina, Ida Rubinsetin and Michel Fokine, who was also the choreographer. 

Cleopatra costume design by Léon Bakst for Ida Rubinstein, Paris 1909 - Photo: Cat Bauer
"The greatest success of the season is Cléopatre. The theatre was packed even on the closing nights and the result was surprising every time, earning 34,000 francs a day." 
Letter by Bakst to his wife Lyubov Gritsenko, June 30, 1909.

"In my apartment Ida Rubinstein met Diaghilev and the entire troupe of the Ballet Russes artists and it was then that she was invited to perform in the 'Russian Season,' in Cléopatre, and later in Shéhérazade. For a year I couldn't make a real dancer of her. She was very unemotional in the roles of Cleopatra and Shéhérazade, but thanks to her striking appearance she managed to achieve unusual forms and a very profound image."
Letter by Michel Fokine to Frederick Beaumont, January 1, 1925

The Fondazione Giorgio Cini Institute of Theatre and Opera and the Saint Petersburg State Museum of Theatre and Music present the exhibition of Léon Bakst, built almost entirely around Bakst's stage and costume designs from the large collection of his work in the Saint Petersburg Museum, now on show in Italy for the first time. In addition to Bakst's designs, the exhibition is complemented by rare theatre programs and other iconographic items from the archive of choreographer Aurél M. Milloss, presereved in the Fondazione Giorgio Cini.

The exhibition made me greatly appreciate the organizations that somehow manage to preserve the monumental moments of mankind throughout war and strife, suppression and revolution. It seems that no matter how hard the forces of obstruction try to repress these precious jewels, industrious individuals manage to squirrel them away.

Léon Bakst. Symbol of the Ballets Russes, curated by Maria Ida Biggi and Natalia Metelitsa is at Palazzo Cini until November 19, 2018. Go to the Fondazione Giorgio Cini for more information.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Sunday, October 7, 2018

What are those Photos around Venice? "Water, Future, Life" - Ten Years of the Elena Trevisanato Foundation

Brehane, elderly woman from Obal village - Photo by Axel Fassio
"We were resigned to the necessity of migrating, without knowing where to go. Today we are here, our village is prospering and we can live on our land. Water keeps our roots and our traditions alive."
Brehane - an elderly woman from the Obal village

(Venice, Italy) Ten photographs. Ten stories. Ten months. "Water, Future, Life," ten photographs by Axel Fassio tell ten different stories in an itinerary that weaves throughout the heart of Venice and Mestre for the next ten months to raise awareness of the ten years that the Fondazione Elena Trevisanato has been doing good deeds in Ethiopia.

Zahi, village chief of Darwoanji - Photo by Axel Fassio
"Since the day we got water, it is not only the history of individuals that changed, but the history of our entire community. It has been a dream come true. It is like we are born again."
Zahi, village chief of Darwoanji

Elena Trevisanato died very young, at age 19, when she fell off a horse. Her family spun their grief into gold by setting up the non-profit Fondazione Elena Trevisanato, which has transformed the lives of about 135,000 people by bringing water, new schools and health care to villages in the Somali Region of Ethiopia. With images and words, ten villagers reflect upon how their lives have been transformed by the Fondazione Elena Trevisanato.

Asma, student from Darwonaji village - Photo by Axel Fassio
"Education is the light of the world."
Asma - 12-year-old student from the Darwonaji village

The exhibition began on October 5 on Salizada San Samuele where the ten photographs were sprinkled throughout various businesses along the street. It will continue until July 2019, culminating with an auction next September. Here is the itinerary:

  • October 2018: Salizada San Samuele
  • November 2018: Campo Santa Margherita
  • December 2018: Campo San Giacomo dell'Orio
  • January 2019: the island of Giudecca
  • February 2019: the Rialto Fish Market
  • March 2019: the center of Mestre
  • April 2019: vaporetto stops along the Grand Canal
  • May 2019: Campo San Giovanni e Paolo
  • June 2019: Forte Marghera
  • July 2019: Fondamenta Misericordia

At the inauguration next February, there will be an event at the Rialto Fish Market open to all. The Fondazione Elena Trevisanato believes that the Rialto Fish Market is a historic space that is synonymous with work and tradition, as well as the future and life of all the citizens of Venice.

Selam, patient at Darwonaji health center - Photo by Axel Fassio
"The presence of the hospital ward has greatly improved the assistance we receive. Today, the dispensary of our village is a real place of care."
Selam, patient at the Darwonaji health center

Photographer Axel Fassio is a "globetrotter since birth, a Venetian by adoption." He has exhibited throughout the world, from Europe to the United States, from Argentina to Sri Lanka and Kenya. His images have been published in National Geographic, Der Spiegel and The New York Times, the Discovery Channel and BBC Travel. He has lived and worked in Africa with NGOs and the United Nations.

Everyone involved is volunteering their time, energy, spaces and other resources to turn the spotlight on the foundation created by the Trevisanato family to memorialize Elena, their daughter and sibling. Fondazione Elena Trevisanato has transformed the grief of one tragic young death into a movement that gives life and hope to thousands. 

Fondazione Elena Trevisanato onlus
Santa Croce 252
30135 Venezia
Tel.: +39 041 522 61 36

Exhibition info
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Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog